The novel is one of Stephen King’s greatest accomplishments in the realm of supernatural horror fiction. It taps into the themes of ‘Pet Sematary‘ for which he’s best known, like death and the unknown, while using skillful plot devices, like foreshadowing, to make the novel very suspenseful.
Spoiler-free Summary of Pet Sematary
‘Pet Sematary‘ is a horror novel about a family that moves to a small town in Maine. The father, Louis Creed, discovers an ancient burial ground hidden deep in the woods behind his new home. When tragedy strikes, and the family suffers a devastating loss, Louis discovers the mysterious powers of the graveyard and its ability to bring the dead back to life. However, with each attempt to revive the past, something sinister is awakened.
‘Pet Sematary‘ is about grief, loss, and guilt and offers a chilling exploration of how far one is willing to go to bring back what has been lost. As the events unfold, the Creeds must confront the tragedy they have unleashed and decide the ultimate fate of their family.
Full Summary of Pet Sematary
Warning – This article contains important details and spoilers
The Creed family has moved to Maine from Chicago in order for the father, Louis Creed (who is also the protagonist of the novel), to take up a new role at a local school. As soon as the family moves in, they start struggling with small injuries and bad dreams. They learn that the road in front of their house is a very dangerous place, with large trucks passing quickly all day. Their neighbor, Jud, reinforces their fear of the road, indicating that many pets have been hit while trying to cross.
Louis and Jud quickly become good friends. One day, Jud takes Louis and his family to a pet cemetery (misspelled “sematary,” which is where the title’s spelling comes from) he knows about in the woods. Rachel disapproves of discussing death around her daughter, Ellie. But Louis isn’t quite so concerned and feels it’s necessary for children to learn about death. This is an unfortunate bit of foreshadowing for what’s to come.
Louis understands his wife’s apprehension because her sister Zela died from spinal meningitis when she was younger. They all blame her parents for Rachel’s trauma. They left her at home alone with her sister when she died. The book features a few moments of traumatic memories of Rachel caring for her sister during her final days.
Trouble comes for the family when Louis starts his job. Victor Pascow, one of the school’s students, is fatally injured in an automobile accident described in incredible detail. His dying words are addressed to Louis personally, warning him against the dangers of “the place beyond.”
Louis has a traumatizing dream in which he meets Pascow’s ghost and follows him through the Pet Sematary. When he wakes up the next morning, his feet and bedsheets are covered with mud and dirt, adding an eerie feeling to the dream, something that should make readers question what happened. Louis dismisses it as stress.
Next, Norma (Jud’s wife) suffers a dangerous heart attack, but Louis helps her make a quick recovery. Jud, thankful for Louis’ help, decides to repay him after Church is run over by a truck and killed.
When Rachel and the kids are away, Jud takes Louis to the “sematary” and then to “the real cemetery.” In one of the best parts of the novel, the newly resurrected Church returns home and acts strangely, eventually going missing again. Jud explains that he had buried his dog there many years ago when he was younger.
Louis is deeply disturbed and quickly worries that burying Church there was the wrong thing to do. He attempts to fix the situation but ultimately fails.
Soon, a new horror greets the family— their son Gage’s death. He runs out into the road and is hit by a car. Jud attempts to convince Louis what a bad idea resurrecting Gage is by telling him about Timmy Baterman, who was killed in World War II. His father buried him in the same burial ground many years ago. Timmy returned as a creature not of this world and terrorized the people of the town with secrets he had no earthly way of knowing. Jud believes that Timmy was transformed into some kind of demon.
Louis is undeterred, and Gage is resurrected in a new terrifying form. Louis is horrified, and the family fights for their lives, but unfortunately, Gage kills Jud and Rachel. Louis, desperate to keep him from hurting anyone else, kills both Church and Gage with morphine.
Louis takes Rachel’s body back to the cemetery, thinking that maybe he could bury her quickly and she might be resurrected in a better state than Gage was.
In the last few pages, the reader is greeted with one more shocking twist. Back in Maine, Louis is indoors alone. Suddenly, he feels a cold hand on his shoulder and turns to see his deceased wife standing behind him. She says the word “Darling” before he passes out in fear.
What is the main conflict in Pet Sematary by Stephen King?
The main conflict in ‘Pet Sematary‘ by Stephen King is the decision to use a mystical burial ground to bring back the dead. Louis Creed, a doctor from Maine, discovers the power of the ancient burial ground and is faced with the dilemma of how far he’s willing to go to bring back his beloved family members.
Who are the main characters in Pet Sematary by Stephen King?
The main characters in ‘Pet Sematary‘ by Stephen King are Louis Creed and his family, as well as Jud Crandall. There are also a few minor characters.
What is the climax of Pet Sematary by Stephen King?
The climax of ‘Pet Sematary‘ by Stephen King occurs when Gage is hit by the truck and later resurrected. In a desperate bid to bring his son back to life, Louis takes the risk of burying him in the cemetery and seeing what happens. Unfortunately, this is a choice that he comes to regret when Gage kills Jud and Rachel.